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System Builder Marathon, September 2011: The Articles
Here are links to each of the four articles in this month’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.
To enter the giveaway, please fill out this Google form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!
Day 1: The $2000 Performance PC
Day 2: The $1000 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Superb multi-card scaling is part of the reason why Tom’s Hardware editors have used AMD graphics hardware in every System Builder Marathon machine this year, a fact that may have escaped die-hard AMD fans who've missed seeing the company's CPUs compete up at the top of the spectrum.
And yet, just because we've doted on AMD's graphics-oriented value doesn't mean the company enjoys performance superiority. The fact remains that Nvidia has the most powerful GPU around in its GeForce GTX 580. The only reason we've shied away from its high-performance flagship up until now was that the cost of other necessary system components gobbled up our budget first. That is, until today.
With Intel’s super-fast Sandy Bridge processors and high-end SSDs already populating our top-end build, graphics performance was one of the few places we could noticeably improve the performance of our $2000 configuration without significantly expanding our budget. Recent drops in memory and motherboard prices brought us within $120 of our graphics upgrade goal, forcing us to scale back on two specific items that you’ll certainly notice in the finished system photo.
|$2000 Performance System Components|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3: LGA 1155 Intel Z68 Express||$150|
|Graphics||2 x EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 SLI||$980|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-2600K: 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache||$315|
|Memory||G.Skill F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL: DDR3-1866 C9, 4 GB x 2 (8 GB)||$80|
|System Drive||Adata S511 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD||$170|
|Storage Drive||Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2 TB, 7200 RPM HDD||$80|
|Optical||Lite-On iHAS224-06: 24x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW 6x DVD-RW||$21|
|Case||Antec Three Hundred Illusion||$70|
|Power||Seasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver||$120|
|Heat Sink||Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1||$30|
|Row 10 - Cell 0||Total Cost||$2016|
Putting all of our sacrifices out in the open, we scaled back on the two items all readers could see from the outside: the case and the optical drive. While we truly believe a high-end multi-purpose system should probably have an Blu-ray burner, the higher-performance graphics cards would boost the score of today’s build in our value comparison.
The case, on the other hand, would only affect perceived worth, since the Antec Three Hundred Illusion has already proven itself an excellent performer through several of our earlier builds.
While today’s build appears to be a budget-buster, its price is $16 higher since we place our order. That's right, it was exactly a $2000 collection of hardware a month ago.
All three should have provided at least equal performance, and been better on intangible benefits to micro stuttering.
Now I know we'll see the usual "well this is meant to be a learning experience, learn from our errors and improve for next time" comments, but these are not mistakes I expect to see Tom's writers making. Even non-uber-enthusiast readers can probably see that some of the imbalances here. No result is horrible, but I'd have expected Tom's to look at that Newegg shopping cart and immediately think "nope guys, this isn't right. This gfx setup... in an Antec 300?" etc.
Always love these articles guys, keep them up! Even if I do disagree with some of the choices obviously ;) Really looking forward to $1k and $500 builds in the coming days!